What is HPV? Everything You Need to Know

What is HPV? Everything You Need to Know

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women in India accounting for nearly 1 lakh new cases and 60000 deaths every year. However, it is also one of the most preventable cancers.

What is HPV?

HPV stands for human papilloma virus. HPV infection is the major causative agent of cervical cancer and can also cause genital warts. There are more than 100 subtypes of HPV.

How is HPV infection mainly transmitted?

HPV is a highly contagious virus and is transmitted mainly through sexual contact with your partner/s.It can also spread through skin to skin contact.

What are the symptoms of HPV infection?

Most people with HPV infection do not have any symptoms. Some may develop warts or it can be picked during routine screening HPV DNA test.

How Can the Risk of Cervical Cancer Be reduced?

Cervical cancer prevention can be done through HPV vaccination and screening at periodic intervals.It’s important to stress that the vaccine only works if the person is not already infected with HPV, so the importance of vaccination is more prior to onset of sexual activity. Another more important thing to address is to have safe sex practice and lifestyle changes.

Is there any role of Immune system?

HPV infection is common in the reproductive age group. However, most cervical HPV infections are transient and are cleared by the host’s immunity. However, in certain cases, high-risk HPV may persist and cause abnormal cervical cells to form, which can become cancerous. Preventing HPV infection, therefore, is a major step towards prevention of cervical cancer.

What are the causes of persistent HPV infection?

Persistent HPV infection and progression of disease to invasive cancer occurs in older age, smoking, HIV infection, and other types of immunosuppression. It’s important to make the necessary lifestyle and dietary changes to boost one’s immune system so that the body can fight against the infection.

How can we reduce the risk of HPV infection?

HPV infection is largely preventable by vaccination.These vaccines are highly immunogenic and protect against HPV infection and cervical precancer in nearly 98-100 % of vaccinated girls We can also lower the risk of contracting HPV by using a barrier method of contraception, limiting the number of sexual partners,not smoking and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. BCOS Foods is here to help you manage your lifestyle and keep your nutrition on track.

What is the importance of Screening?

Abnormal Pap test results such as dysplasia or precancerous cells are not always indicative of having cervical cancer. The average time course from HPV infection to progress to cancer is estimated around 10-15 years, providing us enough opportunities for these lesions to be detected and be treated early.

What types of HPV vaccines are available?

FDA has approved

  • Bivalent vaccine (Cervarix) protects against HPV 16/18
  • Quadrivalent vaccine(Gardasil) protects against HPV 16,18,6,11
  • 9 valent HPV vaccine(Gardasil 9) protects against HPV 6,11,16,18,31,33,45,52,58.

Who all should take the vaccines?

Vaccines are recommended as early as the starting age of 9 years and for women up to the age of 45 years.For best protection against HPV ,these are ideally administered before the onset of sexual activity.

What is the vaccination schedule?

Two doses of vaccine before 15 years of age are given 6 to 12 months apart. Three doses of vaccine are recommended after 15 years of age. (0,1-2,and 6 months interval).

What are the side effects of vaccination?

There are no major side effects of vaccination as such. Local reaction at the injection site like

  • Pain, redness, swelling or syncopal attack(fainting after any vaccine)
  • Headache, nausea
  • Muscle or joint pain

Are there any contraindications for vaccination?

  • Pregnancy
  • An allergic reaction to HPV vaccine or any of its ingredients including an allergy to yeast or latex.
  • In presence of acute or severe illness, vaccination is deferred.

Can cervical cancer occur despite vaccination?

HPV vaccination provides protection against the high risk strains of HPV, which are most likely to cause cervical cancer.But it does not protect against all HPV strains.So vaccination reduces the chances of developing cervical cancer but does not completely eliminate the risk.


“Get tested and screened today”

Cervical cancer can be easily prevented if we are vigilant enough. Cervical screening through regular Pap smears and or HPV testing, as well as the HPV vaccination, are both incredible tools in the prevention of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is easily preventable and treatable and not something to be scared off.


Information provided by Dr. Meenu Vaish, President - Uttrakhand Obs & Gyn Society & Director, Mehar Hospital (Dehradun)


This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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